Book Review: The End of Echoes, Dawn Hosmer

Author: Dawn Hosmer
Book Name: The End of Echoes
Release Date: August 16, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Suspense/Family Drama
Overall SPA: 3.5
3.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Two families, forever linked by tragedy.

Ruby Dunkin is in an abusive marriage. Her best efforts aren’t enough to shield her two children from an abusive father whose cruelty knows no bounds. Their volatile situation ends in tragedy when Ruby’s eldest son, Billy is torn away from everything he loves. Consumed by hatred and self-loathing Billy becomes the thing he hates the most—his father.

Chelsea Wyatt, a senior in high school, goes missing after work one night, never to return. Her parents are devastated, only knowing this kind of tragedy from the news. Crimes like this are unheard of in their quiet, midwestern town. Consumed by the tragic fate of their friend, family member and neighbor, their lives and futures are forever altered.

For over eighteen years, no one knows the connection between Ruby Dunkin and Chelsea Wyatt. A journey through time reveals the common thread stitching their heartbreak together. Yesterday echoes throughout each character’s life as they decide how, and if, they will break the chains of the past.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 3.5/5 Stars
Believability: 3.5/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 3.5/5 Stars

I am so torn on rating this one! It was really well written and it is absolutely going to grab your emotions and drag them along for the ride. While this packs an emotional wallop, it does so heavily and not always in a way I enjoyed.

This is the kind of story that gives you a glimpse into this small, ugly slice of life in the form of a massively traumatic event and how that kind of trauma can spider out, changing all the people it touches. Everyone deals with and reacts to traumatic events in different ways, but it felt like all of the characters in the book reacted in some of the most negative ways possible. I struggled with the fact that not a single character was presented as dealing with this trauma in more positive and healthy ways. It is an unrealistic expectation to believe they all would have handled it well, but it is also unrealistic to believe they all went in the extreme other direction but that is how they felt to me.

That lack makes this an unrelentingly heavy read. There really isn’t much of anything with any kind of uplifting feel to it. Yes, it brought me to tears a time or two, but it did so because of how tragic the whole thing is. I struggled with character connections because of it. The one character I expected to have the utmost sympathy for, the mother, I had the absolute least. It bothered me how much I disliked her. I honestly almost felt more towards the bad guy and I really didn’t like that either.

I wasn’t a fan of how dark and heavy this was, because I really prefer to have a brighter edge to what I read, something that doesn’t make me feel like there isn’t much hope for any kind of good in humanity. If you don’t have that kind of a preference and just want an intense read, then I would absolutely recommend picking this up as it is a really engaging story.

 

Book Review: Good Girls, Amanda Brookfield

Author: Amanda Brookfield
Book Name: Good Girls
Release Date: October 8, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Overall SPA: 2 Stars
2 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Everyone that meets Kat Keating is mesmerised. Beautiful, smart and charming, she is everything a good girl should be.

Her sister Eleanor, on the other hand, knows she can’t compete with Kat. On the awkward side of tall, clever enough to be bullied, and full of the responsibilities only an older sibling can understand, Eleanor grows up knowing she’s not a good girl.

This is the story of the Keating sisters – through a childhood fraught with secrets, adolescent rivalries, and on into adulthood with all its complexities and misunderstandings.  Until a terrible truth brings the sisters crashing together and finally Eleanor begins to uncover just how good Kat really was.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 2/5 Stars
Blurb: 2/5 Stars

Believability: 3/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 2/5 Stars

I struggled to get through this one. The blurb on this simply does not match the story at all, giving you the sense at least that Kat is something of a perfect favorite and there would end up being some sort of intrigue or suspense surrounding that. It isn’t.

Instead you get an incredibly slow and drawn out story about a variety of people living miserable lives and being kind of horrible to each other while they do it. There wasn’t a character in the entire book that was appealing to me. For the most part I was either bored or trudging through some rather depressing material with no real sense of things improving. I spent most of the book waiting for something interesting to happen or for the overall mood of the book to lift and it never really did, unless you consider the last maybe 10% of the book as a lift. I didn’t, so I really was not a fan of this one.

*I received a copy of this book from NetGalley. Opinions stated are honest and my own.

 

Okay, This Is Awesome!

I’m not normally a note taker when I’m reading. Mostly because stopping to take notes tends to pull me out of a story. Also because I’ve never found a truly convenient method of doing so where I didn’t have to shuffle my reader with either my laptop or a notepad (which also usually meant trying to find a decent pen or pencil and those are NEVER where I left them). I’m also kind of lazy and all of that is just too much work. I’d rather read.

Sometimes, though, I do need to make a note of something so I don’t forget. This was the case for the current ARC I’m reading. Then I remembered my tablet doing some weird split screen thing when I first got it. This prompted me to play around a bit and found I can split my reading window with a notes window! I can either type my notes or use the handy pen to write them. I have a feeling I’ll be doing this more in the future because it is such an easy way to take notes which makes it totally awesome.

Yes, I’m easily amused by things that make my life easier.

Situational And Emotional Representation In Books

It seems as though I’ve read a lot of books recently that I’ve hit me in a lot of personal ways. Most of the time, I can pinpoint exactly what soft spot it hit and why I reacted the way I did. Other times, it seems so much more complex. This is something that has been rattling around in my brain for a few weeks now and I’ve been trying to figure out why I seem to react so strongly.

I have also seemed to struggle to really find what I want to read the most. Something like a reading slump, but not so much that I have disliked a lot of what I’ve read. Just, I’ve wanted to find something more than what I actually found.

I finally figured out at least a part of it. I’m a deeply emotional reader. I need to have emotional connections to the story and the characters, at least to some extent, for me to really enjoy it. Those are the stories I’ve been craving, but I haven’t quite been able to say I’m looking for this very specific kind of book because I wasn’t even certain what I’d been looking for. It has occurred to me that, at least on one front, I’m looking for emotional or situational representations that reflect on me and my life experiences. I want to see more pieces of my own reality in the books I read.

The problem with that is the times I’ve run across those, more times than not, I really end up disliking the book. These are the ones I’ve had the hardest time trying to really pinpoint the why. I’m beginning to think that a big part of that is the way I want to see those emotions and situations handled. I either want to see them handled in the way I did as some sort of validation of my experiences, or in a way that I see as better and with more positive results than what I experienced allowing that character to avoid some of my own personal chaos. Rarely do I get the one I need for that specific situation or emotion and end up disappointed with the story in front of me.

If a character does something that is counter to what I need in that situation emotionally, I find it taints how I feel about that character. That isn’t to say I’m looking for perfect characters, because perfect isn’t interesting at all. It is boring. I’m looking for human flaws, but I apparently need them flawed in just the right way, if that makes any sense at all.

I’m not certain if this is just a me thing or if others have similar feelings about this. I know I have a whole lot of peeves when it comes to books, but I wasn’t aware that some of these emotional situations and how they are handled was one of them. Everyone is going to bring personal experience and bias into a book they read, but I wasn’t aware of quite how much I drag along with me when I open a book.

I adore stories about families, but those also tend to be the ones that push my buttons hard. Issues like toxic relationships, mental abuse, rejection, forgiveness for those kinds of issues and family obligations all tend to be some really hot spots for me and I almost never react well to them even though those are the very things you tend to see most often in those types of books.

Do other people have these kinds of issues with what they read, maybe with other specific topics or am I just as weird as I think I am?

Sorry if this was a bit of a rambly mess. I think I’m still working through it all and I don’t think I’ve manged to dig it all out yet.

It’s A Baby Lemon!

Yes. I know. It isn’t yellow.

I was making homemade lemonade and was inspired by the mess and all the seeds to attempt to grow a tree. I honestly didn’t expect the seeds to sprout as much of what you buy in a store has sterile seeds unless it’s organic. I didn’t know one way or the other with what I’d bought. A little over 2 weeks later, I had a sprout. I planted 8 pots, a couple I dropped more than one seed in because it looked a little anemic. I now have 9 little sproutlings growing (2 of my pots have yet to show) and I have no clue what I’m going to do with them all as lemon trees don’t grow here. I figured I’d get lucky to get one.

Still, it is really cool. My kids, even being teenagers, got crazy excited about these. They’d come home from school and most days would make a beeline to where they were to check to see if they’d sprouted yet.

My goal is to attempt to keep at least one of them alive to live in the house. I’m not a black thumb when it comes to plants, but I tend to forget they need water. The few I do have living have been so well conditioned, they could probably now survive the worst drought in history.

It Begins

I so adore starting my Monday cleaning a massive hairball off the wood floor. *sigh* And this is just the start of the insanity because dance starts this week for BG. This means that her assisting days also start this week. I only discovered last night that I’ve got to scramble this afternoon because MC has his gaming club right after school. That means I have to leave as soon as BG gets off the bus so I can run and pick MC up, race home back home, grab BG and take her to her first class she assists. Then I get to sit in my car for a hour while she does it.

This bit of crazy really won’t last but maybe a couple of weeks because we just almost have the car situation worked out and he will start driving himself to and from school. It doesn’t relieve the stress of Wednesdays when BG has to be at the studio at 4 but wouldn’t get off the bus until nearly 3:30 which is about the time we need to leave to get her there on time. I’m probably going to have to be picking her up from school on Wednesdays. Until MC gets comfortable doing this drive (which includes a stint on the highway) BG won’t be riding with him. We all have decided that we all need to be in agreement that he is ready before she will do that, that includes BG being comfortable with it. I have no time frame for that piece.

Have I mentioned that with BG assisting this year, I’m going to have to be at the studio, in my car, 3 different times a week? The 4th time she is there long enough for me to drop her off and come home or get stuff done. The other 3 times is only an hour so it makes no sense to drive the 20 minutes home to only be there for about 10 minutes before doing the 20 minute drive back.

There are reasons I’m pushing her to learn to drive ASAP. I’m hoping she will be able to get her license as soon as she turns 16 after the first of the year.

It’s a good thing I like to read.

Book Review: Single, Single Dads- Book #1

Author: RJ Scott
Book Name: Single
Release Date: June 12, 2019
Series: Single Dads
Order: #1
Genre: Romance/LGBTQIA
Overall SPA: 4 Stars
4 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Ash wants a family, and is determined to continue with a surrogacy he’d begun with his ex. Bringing baby Mia home, he vows that he will be the best father he can be. Nothing in this world matters more to him than caring for his daughter, not even accidentally falling in lust with the doctor next door. Challenged by his growing attraction to Sean, and confronted by painful memories of his family, Ash has to learn that love is all that matters.

When ER doctor Sean moves in with his friends next door to sexy single father Ash, he falls so quickly it takes his breath away. The sex they have is hot, but Ash is adamant his heart is too full with love for his daughter to let anyone else in. Why is Sean the only one who sees how scared Ash is, and how can he prove to his new lover that he desperately wants the three of them to become a family?

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 3.5/5 Stars
Believability: 4.5/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 4/5 Stars

This was a really great blend of incredibly sweet and slightly steamy, without going too far over in either direction. I will always be a sucker for stories with kids and babies, especially when you throw in the struggling, but loving single dad.

If I have much of anything to say beyond that, it is that I really would have liked just a little bit more. A little bit more time with both Sean and Ash to get a better feel for them and their connection. It is absolutely there and I loved it, but it was kind of this soft touch of them and then their story ends a little too quickly.

In all, though, I really liked this and it was exactly what I needed to lighten my reading for a bit.

 

Sharing Debbie’s Review: An Unexpected Turn — Just Busy Reading

An Unexpected Turn by T. J. Fox Published by TJ Fox on March 26, 2019 Genres: Contemporary, General Fiction, Women’s Fiction Pages: 194 Format: eBook Source: Kindle Unlimited “When I take a good look at my reflection, I’m surprised that the face looking back at me in the mirror doesn’t look different than the one…

via Review: An Unexpected Turn — Just Busy Reading

Look Into My Eyes

I’m going to admit that taking the photos of this made me really jumpy. Especially when I wanted to get this closer shot and I’ve got my camera up in this thing’s face. When my flash pops up on the top of my camera, I jumped and maybe squealed a little bit because I thought it was the mantis jumping at me. I would have peed myself if I hadn’t been using the screen on the back. If I’d had my eye to the viewfinder when that happened, I’d probably be looking at how much it cost to fix a broken camera. No, I’m not a huge fan of bugs and stuff like that. Probably why you don’t get to see too many photos of them.

Book Review: Bone Music, The Burning Girl – Book #1

Author: Christopher Rice
Book Name: Bone Music
Release Date: March 1, 2018
Series: The Burning Girl
Order: #1
Genre: Suspense/Thriller/SciFi
Overall SPA: 3.5 Stars
3.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Charlotte Rowe spent the first seven years of her life in the hands of the only parents she knew—a pair of serial killers who murdered her mother and tried to shape Charlotte in their own twisted image. If only the nightmare had ended when she was rescued. Instead, her real father exploited her tabloid-ready story for fame and profit—until Charlotte finally broke free from her ghoulish past and fled. Just when she thinks she has buried her personal hell forever, Charlotte is swept into a frightening new ordeal. Secretly dosed with an experimental drug, she’s endowed with a shocking new power—but pursued by a treacherous corporation desperate to control her.

Except from now on, if anybody is going to control Charlotte, it’s going to be Charlotte herself. She’s determined to use the extraordinary ability she now possesses to fight the kind of evil that shattered her life—by drawing a serial killer out from the shadows to face the righteous fury of a victim turned avenger.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 3.5/5 Stars
Believability: 3.5/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 4/5 Stars

I was skeptical about picking this one up , so I’m a little bit surprised at how much I ended up enjoying this. I think I kind of expected something that leaned a little heavier towards the gore or horror side, so the fact that it didn’t was a big positive for me.

Even though I’m not normally a big science fiction fan, this one really only kind of touches on that genre (doesn’t even show as being in it in most locations), so that also added another little bonus for me because that touch is interesting.

The base nature of the story annihilates the believability boundaries, but what you are given is presented in a way that all the parts surrounding it work well even outside those boundaries. I liked how the drug in this is presented because it has a different kind of impact than what I’ve seen in stories based on that “exposure to something toxic or experimental” trope in the past. It brings it back into the realm of possibility.

I think I kind of expected to not like this because it isn’t exactly my norm, but I really did. I’ll be grabbing the next book in the series to see if it can live up to the first.

 

Had A Moment

Hubby and I were talking about the current sales numbers and results of my Amazon ad. I’m being all excited about those number and how it was impacting my rankings and all of those things. He says something, and I can’t honestly remember what exactly. Something about how he hopes that might translate into reviews I think. Anyway, that was the moment the numbers fell away and I realized those numbers also meant people READING my book. Like actual eyes on the words I wrote. And that they paid money to read those words.

It was kind of like walking into a swarm of bees. I felt like my heart stuttered for a moment and I couldn’t decide if I I was going to laugh or cry or vomit.

It’s really weird. I know, logically, that people that purchase my book are reading it. I’ve had some of you guys not only read it but tell me you did and what you thought, but… I kind of know you so I guess it was different? Maybe? Same thing with people that have or are reading it for review somehow seem to fall into a very different group because I’ve said “Hey, would you mind doing this? Oh, and here’s a copy! THANKS!”

The whole realization just hit me funny and I have spent the last couple of hours with my head a bit of a mess. I’m excited and freaked out and slightly panicky all at the same time.

So, I’m having a bit of a moment and working towards breathing. I’m mostly past it, but every once in a while when I really stop and think about it, my stomach flips over again and my heart feels like it is going to fall out of my chest. I’ll do my best to keep the gore off the screen.

 

Snail Pace

For some reason, we are getting overrun with snails this year. There are very few times that you can walk outside a not see either the full snail or the shell they’ve left behind. I’m thrilled for the photo opportunities, but I just don’t remember ever seeing so many of them before. The few minutes I was outside this morning taking photos, I saw 6 or 8 of them just around my back patio. These are two that were hanging out on the edge and just outside of my patio. The grass was still wet and dewy so I really didn’t want to step out any farther than that because I was too lazy to get my shoes on first.

Snail In The Dewy Grass
Snail In The Dewy Grass
Snail In The Dewy Grass
Snail In The Dewy Grass
Snail On Concrete
Snail On Concrete

Book Review: The Oysterville Sewing Circle – Susan Wiggs

Author: Susan Wiggs
Book Name: The Oystervill Sewing Circle
Release Date: August 13, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Women’s Fiction/Romance
Overall SPA: 2.5 Stars
2.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: At the break of dawn, Caroline Shelby rolls into Oysterville, Washington, a tiny hamlet at the edge of the raging Pacific.

She’s come home.

Home to a place she thought she’d left forever, home of her heart and memories, but not her future. Ten years ago, Caroline launched a career in the glamorous fashion world of Manhattan. But her success in New York imploded on a wave of scandal and tragedy, forcing her to flee to the only safe place she knows.

And in the backseat of Caroline’s car are two children who were orphaned in a single chilling moment—five-year-old Addie and six-year-old Flick. She’s now their legal guardian—a role she’s not sure she’s ready for.

But the Oysterville she left behind has changed. Her siblings have their own complicated lives and her aging parents are hoping to pass on their thriving seafood restaurant to the next generation. And there’s Will Jensen, a decorated Navy SEAL who’s also returned home after being wounded overseas. Will and Caroline were forever friends as children, with the promise of something more . . . until he fell in love with Sierra, Caroline’s best friend and the most beautiful girl in town. With her modeling jobs drying up, Sierra, too, is on the cusp of reinventing herself.

Caroline returns to her favorite place: the sewing shop owned by Mrs. Lindy Bloom, the woman who inspired her and taught her to sew. There she discovers that even in an idyllic beach town, there are women living with the deepest of secrets. Thus begins the Oysterville Sewing Circle—where women can join forces to support each other through the troubles they keep hidden.

Yet just as Caroline regains her creativity and fighting spirit, and the children begin to heal from their loss, an unexpected challenge tests her courage and her heart. This time, though, Caroline is not going to run away. She’s going to stand and fight for everything—and everyone—she loves.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 3/5 Stars
Believability: 3/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 2/5 Stars

I had a really hard time trying to rate this as I went into it expecting to love it, but I really didn’t.

There were three very distinct pieces to this book. The piece of the story that inspired the title and is the support group that Caroline creates. The piece that is Caroline’s relationship with Will. And the piece that is Will’s relationship with Sierra. Each piece, when completely separated from the other pieces are all really compelling and emotional stories that I would have probably been in love with if they had stood on their own.

I would have loved this emotional story about a group of women getting together and working through their struggles with abuse. I would have even really enjoyed it if this had been layered in with even one other portion of this book.

Will and Sierra’s story, on its own could have been this amazing story about a loving, married couple coping with life and all the changes that brings even when those changes mean that the marriage isn’t working anymore. It also could have been really compelling to see where they both ended up after things fell apart.

But, for me at least, the way all three of these pieces tied together really didn’t work for me. The support group piece kind of gets lost in the background behind the other two pieces. The final piece, Will and Caroline’s story, feels tainted by Will and Sierra’s story. It puts Caroline in this sort of ugly position of being the second choice, second place, runner up kind of person and I just really didn’t enjoy that. Especially when you add in the piece that, through it all, Caroline and Sierra were best friends. None of those pieces play well together. I’m not normally a huge fan of the old flame trope in the first place (some work for me, many don’t), but the whole, “the guy falls in love with the best friend but the odd girl out maintains that crush for years and years when a simple conversation could have made things entirely different” are even less appealing to me.

None of these things are made any better by the time jumps back to when the three were teenagers. If anything, it made me just not like any of the characters all that much. I could have done without almost all of those parts of the book. On the flip side of that, most of the opportunities to develop a relationship between Caroline and Will organically later in the story never actually happens on the page. They are glossed over through huge time gaps forcing the reader to just make big assumptions about what has and hasn’t happened.

I’m going to skip over the whole kids part of this as it is a massive peeve of mine, but I will mention it was another, smaller piece that made it hard to enjoy this one. I really loved the different pieces for what they could have been, but I just didn’t like how they were all woven together. It really did kind of feel like 3 different stories all at different levels of being complete were tied together in an attempt to create a whole, but there are big gaps left in all of them and the ties are weak and distort the shapes of what should have been.

 

Yet Another Milestone of Parenting

I will be taking BG out this afternoon to take her permit test so she can start to learn how to drive. It doesn’t seem possible, especially so soon after MC has gotten his license. On one hand, I’m thrilled about this because it means she is that much closer to being able to drive herself to the multiple days she has to be at the dance studio instead of me having to take her. At the same time, I’m so not ready for her to be old enough to be behind the wheel of a car. She isn’t quite old enough yet to get her actual license, only her permit, but still… my Baby Girl is way too far away from being an actual baby.